Maybe you’re a Nerdfighter who has been in-the-know since the Vlogbrothers began, and you heard of Esther in one of John Green’s videos. Maybe you were like me, and noticed her name on the dedication page of Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. If you haven’t heard of Esther Grace Earl before, now you have the chance to read her story.
John Green dedicated The Fault in Our Stars to Esther, but as he said in an interview with USA Today, it “”is not Esther’s story, which only she could tell.”
And while Green wrote the touching forward to This Star Won’t Go Out, this is truly Esther’s story. Released at the end of January 2014, This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl is a beautiful book. It is a collection of the journals, letters, fiction, and sketches of Esther, who passed away at the age of 16 in 2010. Esther was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a young age, and the subject is not shied away from in her book. This diagnosis became a central point of her life and the lives of her family members and friends.
If this sounds heartbreaking: it is. But is this a depressing read? No, it’s not. This is not a book about Esther’s death; it is a celebration of her life. Contained in the pages of this book are the musings of a teenage girl; you will read about the silly, simple things that make Esther smile, and the insecurities that any teen might face. You will read about her frustration with her family members, but you will also read about her unwavering love for them. Esther gets excited over episodes of Dr. Who, just like many of us might. She agonizes over the cost of a ticket to LeakyCon, and we get to share in her excitement when she finally gets to attend. Through transcripts of Skype conversations with her friends (a group nicknamed Catitude), we get to witness how wise, and sweet, and caring Esther could be. Serious content is woven in with lighter content in a way that very much mirrors real life.
One thing that may give readers pause: Esther was very dedicated to Nerdfighter and online culture. Because of this, she uses some terms and acronyms that may not be common knowledge, and references some jokes you have to be “in-the-know” to understand. Don’t let this deter you from reading! I didn’t feel bothered when I had to stop reading to look something up; the beauty of the internet is this: it takes almost no time to learn something new and interesting.
(Note: Nerdfighters are super awesome.)
Interspersed between journal entries and sketches, we read the words of Esther’s family and friends. Her friends share poignant personal essays about their relationships with Esther, and what her short time on Earth has taught them. Her parents, Wayne and Lori Earle, share updates from the online journal they kept about Esther’s hospital visits, her outlook, and their own struggles. I found these entries difficult to read because of their painful subject matter, but they are incredibly important in that they allow us to get a real grasp on Esther’s situation and the situation that all of those affected by cancer face. These pieces, coupled with Esther’s own writing, help us really understand this bubby, creative, and strong Nerdfighter.
“I do hope that when the day comes, whether in 1, 10, or 100 years, I don’t want you to think of me and feel sad. Even now, while I’m alive, don’t think of me and say, “Poor girl. It’s sad she’s sick”. Not that you do that. Think of me and think of the sunshine, and how I looove animals, and drawing something nice.”
For those of us who were not lucky enough to know Esther Grace Earl during her lifetime, we are still afforded the opportunity to learn from her. So often we take things for granted, while what we should be doing is appreciating each moment. This Star Won’t Go Out is a wonderful tribute to Esther, and a testament to the impact a person can have on those around them.
You can learn more about This Star Won’t Go Out, the non-profit foundation started by the Earles to help families with children who have cancer, by clicking here.
Date Published: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile